While its tendrils reach into BPM (Business Process Management) and IM (Information Management), the ECM (Enterprise Content Management) industry is rooted in a specific mission: overhauling paper-based business processes with information technology solutions.
The fundamental rationale for investing in ECM is the idea (and proven reality) that costs may be reduced and processes may be streamlined. Beyond running existing processes better, faster and cheaper, the ECM community promises entirely new ways of understanding and managing activity based on the metrics and other data that emerge from digitized content.
This perspective underlies AIIMs latest publication: Paper Wars 2014: an update from the battlefield. AIIM is the industry association at the heart of ECM. Since the 1940s the organization has supplied studies, standards, training and research to help vendors and customers understand how to effectively manage their documents and related content.
AIIMs latest update on the paper wars is well worth reading, but for advocates of paper-free business its fairly depressing. A few key statistics beg for notice:
AIIM tends to focus on processes rather than technology. This makes sense for the records and information managers who make up the bulk of the organization's membership. For ECM vendors, however, theres a different way to read AIIMs latest report as a judgment on their collective failure to leverage a powerful, universally accepted technology in the fight the paper wars.
When it comes to the specific question of replacing paper in business workflows the technology implications of AIIMs report may be read in the following way:
It takes the smart application of technology to win battles in the paper wars. Here, AIIMs Standards Program has played a quiet but critical role. Unsung, and almost unknown to most members, the Standards Program fostered the PDF/A (archive), PDF/UA (accessibility) and PDF/E (engineering) specifications and managed the transition of PDF itself from an Adobe Systems proprietary technology to an open ISO standard.
For ECM vendors, AIIMs paper wars report should prompt a few considerations:
ECM vendors (and their customers) can learn how effective use of PDF is the big gun in the paper wars at PDF Day in Washington DC and New York City.
The staff of the PDF Association are dedicated to delivering the information, services and value members have come to expect. Staff members of the PDF Association include: Alexandra Oettler (Editor), Betsy Fanning (Standards Director), Duff Johnson (Chief Executive Officer), Matthias Wagner (CFO & Operations Director), Peter Wyatt (Chief Technology Officer), Thomas Zellmann (PDF Evangelist).